High School, I’m told, is a traumatic time for some people. For others, the glory days. For me, not so much of either – if only because, back then, I just didn’t pay much attention. My goal at the time was to simply survive the ride, get out as soon as possible, and then go on about the business of becoming a rock star. How hard could that be?
Watching movies and TV over the years, I have come to understand that things like class reunions can be events filled with anxiety for many. Maybe that guy was some kind of stud in school and the rest of his life didn’t turn out like he and everyone else imagined. Maybe this other guy was not so popular in school and he was picked on by the other kids – so he holds no real affection for them now that he’s all grown up. Maybe that hot cheerleader has put on some pounds and would rather not show up so the old classmates will continue to remember her as she was. You didn’t get rich? The ones who did will flaunt it? Afraid the old cliques will re-connect at the reunion and leave you outside looking in…again? All kinds of stuff like that can go through the minds of people contemplating returning to their alma mater after so many years in the real world. Or, so I’m told.
Admittedly, I wasn’t a member of the Class of ’71, so, even if I had been the type to worry about such trivia, it was no skin off my nose. That was Becky’s class. I still had two more years to become a rock star. It could happen.
About the time we rolled across Greenbrier Bottoms we discovered a fantastic local radio station, playing “She’s a Rainbow,” by the Stones. Nothing could have been more appropriate. They followed that with Creedence Clearwater’s “Born on the Bayou,” as we crossed the bridge. We were home.
The gang was setting up the tailgate party for the Pioneers’ total destruction of the Wynne Yellowjackets when we got to town around 3 o’clock Friday. So, naturally, I took a wrong turn and got stuck behind traffic backed up at the Jr. High. (Hi Myra!) That place looked a little different than it did 40 years ago.
Once we found the spot, up next to the high school building, we unloaded our designated goodies and started to re-connect. Ironically, the first guy I saw there was the first kid I met when I moved to Batesville in 1967, James Milam. We got to do a little catching up before he had to bug out to officiate some other football game. Becky was already up there, hugging and kissing her own classmates, and the aroma of Don McSpadden’s fantastic BBQ was filling the air. It already felt “right.”
After those three years of longing to get out of that place, after the long ride, I found myself needing (if you know what I mean) to get inside. A few of us did. So we finally located an unlocked door – which didn’t even appear to have a latch on it – and immediately split up to locate our old lockers. When I left in 1973, there was still some stuff in there I’d like to get out, but I had forgotten the combination my sophomore year and never asked anybody to open it for me. The lockers had been changed out over the years, but we all found the spots where they used to be. We pointed out the classrooms of Mrs. Seibert, Mrs. Moore, Ms. Felts, and Mrs. Newton, and then decided we better get out before we were arrested for breaking and entering.
Coming back out, I was drawn to a framed picture of John Lennon on the wall, with the quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In MY old school! How cool is that?
That first evening was more than pleasant, and the relatively few that made it on Friday broke down the tailgate and carried off a bunch of great leftovers. I was supposed to take Donnie’s stuff back to his house, but didn’t have a truck, so Duane “Gorilla” Pearson, graciously volunteered to do that for me.
Bec and I returned to Chateau de Price to rest up for the big night on Saturday. First though, she was to attend a breakfast out at one of the hotels where some of the girls were staying, and Nick Fudge said I could come hang out at Ben Treat’s shop where The Reunion Band was practicing for the gig that night. So, Saturday morning, she dropped me off there and me ‘n ol’ Rick Satterwhite got treated to an advance screening of the sets. That was a blast. Brought back lots of memories of the years I’d spent playing music with Andy Buschmann in “Orion” while Nick was elsewhere on the road with “St. Peter’s Road Show.” Both of those guys are even more talented now than they were then, as are Rick Buford and Ben Treat. Mike Foster didn’t make practice, but anybody who’s ever heard him play the keys knows he doesn’t have to. He’s a wizard. These guys are all old pros – the best in the business. If you haven’t heard them, you should make plans to do so. And if you’re ever out Albuquerque way, catch Mike Jordan’s stand-up comedy act.
After spending the rest of the fantastic fall day driving around Batesville, checking out the old neighborhoods, the time for the dinner and dance at Elizabeth’s arrived. And guess what: it may have been the best reunion ever. No anxiety. No pretentiousness. Only a lot of happy old friends genuinely enjoying the company of each other; and it went by almost as fast as the words I get to use here… and the previous 40 years.